The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

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25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Sir Thomas Warrington.

Sir John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Viscount Haldane.

Sir John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Viscount Haldane.

Sir John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

John Simon.

Sir Thomas Warrington.

Sir John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Lord Sumner.

Sir John Simon.

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recital. Then the Lords of Trade go on to say: “It does not appear that any considerable alteration was made ill the state of things with respect to any part of this country during Queen Anne's War, at the conclusion of which, Hudson's Bay was ceded to the Crown of Great Britain by the 10th Article of the Treaty of Utrecht, which stipulates”—then he sets out the Article in the Treaty of Utrecht. which your Lordships had this morning, of 1713; then in the middle of page 889: “In 1719 Commissaries were appointed by both Crowns in order to settle and adjust the several points in dispute relative to America, which were referred to Commissaries by the foregoing Article, and by the Instructions given to His Majesty's Commissaries they were directed to endeavour to get the limits and boundaries between Hudson's Bay and the places appertaining to the French settled in the following manner.” Then he quotes those instructions to Commissary Bladen and Lord Stair which your Lordships know are to be found in Volume VIII at page 4075.

Sir THOMAS WARRINGTON: There is a phrase there which may be important, from your point of view, at line 22: “Which the Company desire may be the boundary between the British and French Subjects, on the coast of Labradore towards Rupert's Land, on the East Main, and Nova Britannia on the French side.” That is to say, Labrador is divided into two parts.

Sir JOHN SIMON: That is right. I am obliged, my Lord. It is also to be found at page 4075. Then over the page, at line 10 on page 890: “A memorial agreeable to the foregoing Instruction was accordingly presented by the British Commissaries, but it does not appear that anything was done in consequence of it.” It looks as though the people who drew this up had not appreciated, when the British Commissaries presented their memorial they had bettered their instructions. Your Lordships remember the point; it is to be found by comparing the page I last gave a reference to with Volume VIII, page 4080: “From the foregoing state it will appear to your Excellencies, that the Right to the Eastern parts of Terra Labrador where the Petitioners propose to make a Settlement, had never been an object of particular dispute or discussion, with any other Prince or State, the disputes with the Crown of France in the years 1687, 1699 and 1719 being solely confined to Hudson's Bay and the Territory dependent thereon.” Now, my Lords, I do with some confidence submit that the people who said that undoubtedly thought that if you took Labrador and the Northern part and regarded it as breaking into two, one part dependent on the Bay of Hudson, the other part, the eastern part, not so dependent, they really were thinking of a natural boundary—I mean provided by the facts of physical geography, which created a complete partition. I do not think it can be doubted. I will read the words again, if I may. I do think this is an important passage, especially in view of what is coming. Your Lordships have in mind what is being dealt with. You have a Petition from the City of London Merchants to which the Hudson's Bay Company object, and here you have the Lords of Trade.

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with these documents before them, reporting to the Sovereign. What they say at page 890 at line 13 is—

Viscount HALDANE: It is quite important to know what they are reporting on. Were they reporting on the merits of the claims of the Hudson's Bay Company and the other Company respectively, or were they reporting on the general question of whether the Crown could properly make the grant?

Sir JOHN SIMON: It is important, but will you excuse me for saying they have been very careful to show what it is. If you will kindly turn back to page 883, they have propounded the question with the greatest possible neatness—in fact, they have propounded three questions, and they say they are dealing with the first.

Viscount HALDANE: I think it is a crucial point.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I think so, too. If you will look at page 883, line 26: “That the Questions arising upon a consideration of this Petition are, First”—this is the thing—“How far the making a Grant to the Petitioners of this Country”—that is the City of London Merchants.

Sir THOMAS WARRINGTON: No, that is the country they are asking for.

Sir JOHN SIMON: The Petitioners are the City of London Merchants. A grant of this country is a grant of the Labrador coast in my sense of the term. It goes on: “May or may not interfere with any claims either of right or possession, which have been made to it by any other Prince or State, or by any of His Majesty's Subjects by virtue of former Grants or Concessions.” Then, Lord Haldane, if you will kindly turn over you will see on page 884, line 8, they begin: “As to the first Question”—I am reading what they are saying on the first question; they are saying now the question then is: Whether or not the Petition of the City of London Merchants to get a settlement on the Atlantic coast of Labrador will interfere with the rights of ownership or possession of anybody else; having had this representation from the Hudson's Bay Company and the protest, they go on to say, on page 890: “From the foregoing state it will appear to your Excellencies that the right to the Eastern parts of Terra Labrador where the Petitioners propose to make a Settlement, had never been an object of particular dispute or discussion, with any other Prince or State, the disputes with the Crown of France in the years 1687, 1699 and 1719 being solely confined to Hudson's Bay and the Territory dependent thereon”—that surely indicates there is this natural partition between the two.—“But it does appear, however, that many of the arguments urged and the proofs offered on both sides in these disputes, do from the nature of them imply more extensive claims, and tend to affect the right to the

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whole of that part of North America, and it does not appear that these disputes have at any time been finally adjusted or a Boundary Line fixed between his Majesty's Dominions and those of His Most Christian Majesty in these parts. As to that part of the Question which has a relation to any claims of right to this country by any of His Majesty's subjects”—he is now coming to the other half of the first question—“we must beg leave humbly to represent: that the only persons which appeared to us to have any interest or concern therein are the Hudson's Bay Company. We therefore thought it proper to call upon them to inform its whether they claimed any or what right to the tract of land desired by the Petitioners. In consequence of which we have received from them a Memorial, a copy whereof is hereunto annexed, and to which we beg leave humbly to refer.” That is the Memorial which is in Volume VIII at page 4098. You will not find it annexed, Lord Finlay, but it is the one I read before: “Upon consideration of this Memorial”—this is very important for me—“it appears to us, that the Hudson's Bay Company seem to admit that the Eastern part of this country cannot be construed to be within the limits of their Charter, and their chief objection to this undertaking seems to arise from an apprehension that it may in its consequence interfere with and prejudice their Trade.” Then they go on to discuss whether in a commercial sense it would be an advantage to make such a grant.

Sir THOMAS WARRINGTON: This is the second question.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Now you have the second question. They say it is reasonable—63 years; then they say, on page 891, they “Have not assigned any Western limit to the territory of which they desire a grant, and therefore as the Hudson's Bay Company do, by virtue of their Charter, claim the Coasts, and confines of the Bay, it will be necessary if any grant should be made agreeable to the Prayer of the Petition, that such Grant should have a Western limit appointed, which will not break in upon the Charter and property of that Company.” Unfortunately nothing was done.

Viscount HALDANE: In effect, that says there is no objection based on any territorial claims of the Hudson's Bay Company. There is no objection in making this grant.

Sir JOHN SIMON: That is what they say.

The LORD CHANCELLOR: They do not worry much about the claims of France.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I do not suppose they minded that a bit. The practical thing was, of course, whether two competing Corporations or Assemblies in the City of London were going to fight over it, or whether the one that was in possession, and a very powerful body, in

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Hudson's Bay were going to prevent the other people getting their grant.

Sir THOMAS WARRINGTON: It does rather look as if the Crown considered they were entitled to the whole of the Peninsula, but the Hudson's Bay Company were only entitled to the western half of it.

Sir JOHN SIMON: That is right.

Sir THOMAS WARRINGTON: That is what we have got to settle.

Sir JOHN SIMON: You have. I am not for a moment saying this gets you out of your trouble.

The LORD CHANCELLOR: It only takes you a certain way.

Sir JOHN SIMON: It only takes us a certain way. I do think the document is important, not only for my side, but in the history of the thing, because it does show strongly that Hudson's Bay were not unnaturally insisting on the widest possible rights, but the Lords of Trade were saying: No, a grant of coasts and sea. Hudson's Bay, it is quite true, does give you quite extensive territory, but that is quite a different thing from what we called the eastern side. That is what happened in 1752, and one speculates—I can only speculate—whether, therefore, when, after Wolfe's victory, the French definitely withdrew from this area and passed to the west of the Mississippi, so there became a duty in the Government here at home to organise the consolidated area, one cannot help wondering whether this document, amongst others, may not have been in the mind of the persons concerned. The reason I say so is because in Volume VIII, page 4110, there is a curious little document from the Secretary of the Hudson's Bay Company to Lord Egremont. Lord Egremont was Secretary of State. I think in those days his office was Secretary of State for the Southern Department. Your Lordships know the Foreign Office at that time was shared between two Secretaries of State, of which the more important was called the Secretary of State for the Southern Department, and, in fact, the affairs of this area, which are fairly high latitudes, fell within the purview of the Secretary of State of the Southern Department. Does your Lordship notice on page 4110 this little note has been preserved? It is addressed to Lord Egremont by the Hudson's Bay Company. “My Lord. Having this evening received from Mr. Rivers a letter signifying your Lordship's desire to know as soon as possible what are the limits upon the coasts between the Hudson's Bay Company and the Coast of Labrador, I have laid the same before Sir William Baker as Governor of the said Company, who has directed me to present his compliments and acquaint your Lordship he will wait on you thereupon to–morrow morning or at any other more convenient time that shall be appointed.”

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It rather looks as though the interview was verbal. It seems a pity there is nobody who can tell us exactly what passed.

Lord SUMNER: That sentence uses the word “coast” in two separate senses.

Sir JOHN SIMON: It does obviously. I think what was really being considered at the moment was this: They were just preparing to enlarge the Commission of the Governor of Newfoundland. Perhaps your Lordships would contrast the dates. The date of this is the 23rd March, 1766, the date on which the Great Seal was appended to Governor Graves' extended Commission was the 25th April, 1763, the next month. They were considering whether or not, in defining the area of Labrador, which was going to be annexed to Newfoundland, they could describe the area as beginning in the north at some defined point. For instance, they might have said Cape Chidley or they might have said Cape Grimington, but the Charter of the Hudson's Bay Company, your Lordships will recall, described the Hudson's Bay area as beginning from the entrance of Hudson's Straits. Of course the point on the land which corresponds to the entrance to the Straits is necessarily a little ambiguous.

Lord SUMNER: Is the suggestion that a new Governorship was going to be created which, in the mind of the writer, was called the Governor of the Coast of Labrador, just as you might have had a Governor of the Gold Coast, and he wanted to know what were the physical limits between the old Hudson's Bay Company territory and the territory of the new Governorship at a particular point on the seashore?

Sir JOHN SIMON: I think that is what it means.

Lord SUMNER: It would solve a great many difficulties. You would only have to find out what the Governorship of the Coast of Labrador included. It would warrant you saying, in talking about a description of the boundaries of the new Governorship called the Coast of Labrador, you may read it with reference to the administrative convenience and necessities of a large area.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I would put it even a little further. I would suggest this: The Hudson Bay Charter, as your Lordship recalls, does not speak of the point on the seashore as being Cape Chidley or Cape Griminigton; it speaks of the area thus granted to the Hudson Bay Company as being everything that is within the Hudson's Straits. Now, your Lordships know there have already been several different versions as to where that would bring you out on the Atlantic seaboard. I do not know whether anyone ever said Cape Chidley up to that time. We know that the Hudson's Bay Company, when they drew their line and offered it to the Commissaries before the Yreaty of Utrecht, brought it out at Cape Griminigton; there was also another place which Commissary Bladen had suggested. You must understand they were drafting


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